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Friday, June 23, 2017

Houston, We Don't Have a Problem


If there was one thing on this trip it would have been the way we got to Houston. Oh, Southwest Airlines did their job well...getting us there on time and on a short, one hour hop...but when I think about it, it would have been about the same time as driving. Cheaper and less hassle, too.

Think about it...since we're with a wheelchair, we need to get to the airport about two hours pre flight. That's after a half hour drive plus another half hour to return the rental car.  In Houston, we have to deplane last, then go find our luggage, then find the shuttle (which is about $50 each way), and...finally...another half hour to our hotel. That's about five hours, total, of which only one is flying.


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The drive from Dallas to Houston would take about four hours and cost about an extra hundred dollars over the regular rental price. Next time, a one-way rental from Dallas to Houston will be the ticket.


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But, that's not what we did this time. Luckily, everything went swimmingly and we had a great SuperShuttle driver and arrived at our hotel about one hour before the check in time. It took the front desk about twenty minutes to assure that our room was ready and they let us check in.



This time, the room we booked and guaranteed was indeed the room we got. A king-size, studio suite with sofabed that was actually bigger than the two-room suite we had in Dallas. It felt massive.

I've got to put in a note here that the Homewood Suites in downtown Houston (only a very short block from the stadium for this leg's baseball game) is just wonderful. Clean, modern, up-to-date, functional, friendly and competent staff, good food and drink...it was all we could ask for and more.



After check in and dropping off our bags, we head out to find some dinner. Today's game ended about an hour ago and there's a little bit of a lingering party atmosphere over by the stadium. We explore a few bars before deciding to sit on the deck of Lucky's on the other side of Interstate 69 from the stadium.

The sign about it being 'Crawfish Boil' day might have had something to do with it.



The weather is perfect, a man is boiling way in the corner, and we make a new friend named Roger (you can see him in the video). Roger takes us under his wing and guides us to the proper ordering technique, introduces us around, and keeps us company while we're there.



A pound of crawfish and a couple of Lone Stars later, we're feeling pretty good as we walk back toward the hotel.

Up the street, I notice a crowd of people, some smoke, and music. Let's go investigate.



We find a very busy park called Discovery Green just swarming with families out for a day at the park in the middle of downtown Houston. There's a lot to do here...

Maybe you caught us on Twitter or Facebook when we stopped at the park's kiosk for a gratis photo and posting. Restaurants from the fast food to fine dining variety line the park's perimeter. Radio controlled boats and kayaks patrol a pond. Playgrounds and ice cream vendors abound for hot and restless kids.

Tim and I find a cool splash pad.  It's even wheelchair accessible so I coax him in.



Since it's an electric chair, I have him follow me around a route to get him cool and damp without drenching the chair.

It's a Texas-sized serving of fun to cap our first day here.

Darryl Musick
Copyright 2017 - All Rights Reserved

Photos by Letty Musick
Copyright 2017 - All Rights Reserved


Wednesday, June 21, 2017

CEREBRAL PALSY STORIES: Rest And Relaxation On The Cloud


One of the things people may wonder about me living with a disability like Cerebral Palsy is if I ever get out of my wheelchair to rest, relax and unwind. Well the short answer to that question is yes I do!

As a matter of fact my parents and I make sure that I spend some time out of my wheelchair every night of the week in the Family Room of our house while we watch our favorite shows on TV. The most important part of my nightly rest and relaxation ritual are the very nice, soft and comfortable leather recliners that we bought from our nearest Living Spaces furniture store a few years ago. These recliners are so soft and comfortable in fact that my Dad and I have affectionately given each of them the individual nickname of "The Cloud."  

As far as our rest and relaxation routine on "The Cloud" goes, the fun all starts after we finish our dinner each night. After the completion of dinner, I usually drive my wheelchair straight to the family room and park it in front of the T.V.  and wait patiently for my parents to come over and join me after they finish cleaning up the dishes and pack any leftovers for the next day. I do this so that I can be transferred  to The Cloud with my Dad's help and assistance.

I should also mention that if I have to go to the bathroom after we finish dinner, I do so before being transferred to The Cloud.


Once I have been successfully transferred into The Cloud, my Dad will then help me get even more comfortable by taking off my shoes, pants (leaving me in my boxers), and leg braces. After all those articles of clothing have been removed my dad will then press the recliner button/lever on The Cloud recliner. After the reclining button has been pushed, our nightly rest and relaxation routine can officially begin!

As for what we actually do during our nightly rest and relaxation routine, the answer is pretty simple. We watch TV and relax of course! For myself, I especially look forward to those nights when of our regularly viewed programs such as Survivor, The Amazing Race or Better Call Saul is on.

Depending on what day of the week it is, the hours that we spend relaxing in the Family Room can vary. For example, on the nights that I have to go the gym for physical therapy, we usually don't get to spend as much time as we would like resting and relaxing. On those nights, by the time we come back home and have dinner, it is usually already between 6:30-7:00 P.M. That time frame usually only gives us between two and a half to three hours of relaxation time on those nights before we have to go to bed as compared to four and a half to five hours of relaxation time during the other nights of the week.


Stunning Diamond Studs - 1/4 CTW Only $99! Is is also pretty much a given that at some point during the night my legs and feet will get cold and I have to ask my parents to put a blanket, sheet or pillow over my legs to stay warm. This is due mostly to one of two things. 

One is that during the Spring and Summer months of the season, the air conditioner will come on inside our house making it too cold. The second reason is because during the Fall and Winter seasons of the month, it is often already too cold at night outside not to have one.


While having a blanket on does tend to keep me warm and comfortable throughout the night while I'm relaxing, there is one possible downside depending on how you look at it. That is the fact that once my parents put a blanket on over my legs, I tend to fall asleep pretty quickly each night while we are watching T.V. before heading to bed later on at night. When this happens, I usually end up feeling like I missed out on watching a key moment from some of our favorite T.V. programs. I guess getting any amount of sleep is probably more important than watching what is on T.V. at any given moment during the night.

After my parents and I get our nightly fix of rest and relaxation, my dad will begin the cycle of wheelchair transferring duties once again so we can all head off to bed for what is hopefully a good night's sleep for all of us with sweet dreams. If everything goes well and we wake up  rested and refreshed the next day, then we are ready to look forward to doing the same kind of rest and and relaxation ritual the next night and the night after that and so on!

(If you'd like to know what kind of recliner it it, click on this link: Fast Lane Gliding Recliner by Flexsteel)

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Tim Musick
Copyright 2017
All Rights Reserved.

Monday, June 19, 2017

The Rangels and The Toadies...Game Day in Texas


Arlington is a funny little city. Just west of Dallas, this suburb has no practical public transit (there is very limited commuter service and a paratransit service) and the area we're staying in has basically nonexistent sidewalks.

This presents a problem as we came here to catch a baseball game. Our hotel is just a hair under a mile from the ballpark but there is no way to walk this walkable distance without having to go onto a very busy street. There is no public transit, either.

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There is a private trolley service that local hotels use, however. It's also wheelchair accessible but you must book (for free) with the hotel's front desk first. We're given three passes for the bus and head out to the street behind the hotel to wait for our appointed pickup time.

Here's where it starts getting a bit interesting.  The Rangers are playing the Angels tonight. We're die-hard Halo fans and this is only the second time we've gotten to see them play on one of our road trips. We're definitely going into enemy territory when we show up in our blood red Angels shirts and a busload of people in blue Texas shirts are waiting there.

We endure quite a bit of good-natured ribbing while we wait for the bus and on the ride to the stadium. The driver points out where we're supposed to catch the bus after the game and we head on in.

The entrance here is at left field and our seats are behind home plate, shading towards first base. We get to our section but I can only find stairs up the one level we need to go. An usher says we can use the press box elevator.

When opened, I see an Angels team executive already on and give him a high-five. We have a need to see our fellow fans and team members feel welcomed in this opposing stadium.



To get to the accessible seats, we have to go through the private, home plate club.  I wish we could stay but our spot is just outside the door. There's a big overhang, pillars obstruct the view, and my knees are pushed into the seat in front of me. These are premium seats, by the way, about $30 more each than the cheap seats in the outfield.



The game gets started and the wind starts blowing. What had been a hot and humid day...with us wearing shorts and t-shirts...turns into a windy 40 - 50 degrees at game time.  It's chilling us to the bone, especially is this very drafty section of the stadium.  Oh, how I wish we could get on the other side of that door, into the climate-controlled home plate club.



It's not to be, however, and neither will it be for the Angels.  They lose, the only loss of their series in Texas. Of course, it had to be the night we had tickets.



After the game, local rockers The Toadies put on a concert for the fans.  You might know them from their hit 'Possum Kingdom.'



Unfortunately, the stadium acoustics are just crap tonight so after waiting five or six songs for their hit, we cut our losses and head outside where the shuttle bus we were supposed to catch never shows up.

Wondering what to do, I decide to book a Lyft ride back to the hotel, get the car, and come back to get Letty and Tim. Luckily, we found a sidewalk vent blowing out warm air they could stand on until I got back.

The Lyft driver cancelled the ride, the second one called me and said security wouldn't let her approach the stadium so I had to leave Letty and Tim there while I walked two blocks to find her.

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She was very nice and when I explained what I was doing, she asked if Tim's wheelchair folds up.  In fact, his travel chair folds up quite nicely, so she had me call them and ask them to walk to the nearest corner where I could guide them to the car and she'd drive us all back to the hotel (she had a nice, big Honda Pilot).

While I was waiting, she asked what was going on inside and I told her about the concert. She'd never heard of the band, I explained they were kind of a one hit wonder when I heard the lyrics of that one hit wafting out of the stadium.

"That's what they're playing now!"

Still didn't ring a bell.

Letty and Tim roll up and it's time to put us and this trip to Dallas, Arlington, and Fort Worth to bed.


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Darryl Musick
Copyright 2017 - All Rights Reserved

Photos by Letty Musick
Copyright 2017 - All Rights Reserved

Saturday, June 17, 2017

THE COCKTAIL HOUR: Crimson Cooler


Looking for something a little different, I stumbled across this one with a bottle of whiskey in hand in the kitchen.


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As noted, it's a whiskey based drink, imparting that sweet, southern taste into the glass.

Mix all ingredients in a cocktail shaker and pour into a highball or pint glass over ice.

INGREDIENTS (two drinks):

3 oz. whiskey
2 oz. Grand Marnier or triple sec
4 drops bitters
Cranberry Cocktail

Cheers!
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Darryl

Friday, June 16, 2017

Get Along Little Dogies...Spending the Day in Fort Worth


We have until 5:00pm until we need to catch the shuttle to Globe Life Park for tonight's baseball game, that leaves us several hours to kill during the day.

The weather report keeps talking about a major storm ("damaging" is the adjective they use) so our plan was to just hang at the hotel and wait it out. Outside, though, the weather doesn't look so bad and monitoring the real-time radar on Accuweather.com shows that the storm is passing just to the north of us.


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Fort Worth, and it's Stock Yards, are only fifteen miles away so we decided to pile in the car and at least drive around to see what we can see.

The sun is still shining as we turn onto Exchange Avenue and a handicapped spot is open in the middle of the block. Apparently, the gods are on our side so we park and get out.



In the back of our parking lot is what's left of the real stockyards, a few cow pens with a small herd of longhorn cattle in them.  It's ramped and wheelchair accessible so we start here.



One bull is being frisky and odious to the other cows as he tries to mount, bully, defecate, and fight among the other more docile animals. What a show...

We're not going to be able to see the cows being driven down the street. It happens two times a day but the first one already happened and we'll be long gone when the second drive is scheduled.

It's lunchtime and we're looking for somewhere to tackle our rumbling stomachs. All I can see are the usual 'meh' tourist lunch spots until a sidewalk sandwich board beckons me with a $7.99 flat iron lunch special.

$7.99 is right up my budgetary alley, let's see if it's worth it.



We're at Riscky's Steakhouse. Of course it's western themed. I feel like I've gone back home and ended up at Knott's Berry Farm. The friendly host seats us, we order a couple of ice-cold Lone Stars, and explore the premises.



While I'm taking pictures, one of the bus boys asks if I've taken a picture of the safe yet. No, I don't know about a safe so he takes me back to a standard and sturdy vault in the back of the dining room.

"This used to be a bank," he tells me. The vault must not be that sturdy because the next thing he says is "this was the first bank to be robbed by Bonnie and Clyde." (I can't find any other verification for this, though)

A basket of bread so delicious it's in danger of ruining our appetite is brought out. Not too long after, the food arrives.



The steak, a just-right serving of tender, juicy flat iron is delicious. It's served with a few Texas-sized steak fries and half a slice of garlicky Texas toast. I'd probably pay three times as much for a similar meal at home. At eight bucks, it is a true bargain.

Tim opts for the chicken fried chicken, which is like a chicken fried steak only using chicken instead of beef.  It's all really good and we polish it off in no time.



This would turn out to be the best lunch we'd have in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. Satisfied, we wander among the shops of Exchange Avenue and notice some raindrops start to fall. It's also smelling very wet so Tim and I head to hang out near our parking spot while Letty does some more shopping.  If that 'damaging' storm is about to hit, I want to be able to put Tim in the car immediately.

It never happens so we watch the Grapevine excursion train locomotive turn itself around on the adjacent turntable and disappear in the cluster of shops (that doubles as the train station) across the street before driving back to Arlington for tonight's game.


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Darryl Musick
Copyright 2017 - All Rights Reserved

Photos by Letty Musick
Copyright 2017 - All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

TRANSIT REPORT: Dallas, Texas


While central Dallas has pretty good public transit, it gets a little bit harder to find the farther out you go. The main components of the Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) are buses and light rail. There is also limited trolley service, a commuter railroad (TRE and DCTA), and paratransit.

Light Rail consists of four lines that bring commuters in starting at nearby suburbs, converging on the Pacific Street corridor in downtown Dallas.The suburban terminals are Carrollton and Plano to the north; Rowlett to the east; Buckner to the south; and Westmoreland to the west. The Orange Line also serves Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport. There is no train service to Love Field, home of Southwest Airlines.


The train cars are split-level with wheelchair seating available in the middle of each car on the lower level. Low floor entry is available at the doors where the wheelchair seating is.


Farther out, you can catch the TRE from Fort Worth and the DCTA A-Train from Denton, north of Dallas.

Both of these commuter railroads operate Monday through Saturday.

Numerous bus lines, all accessible, cover most of the rest of the area with the exception of Arlington (home of the Cowboys and Rangers), which has very little in the way of public transportation.

The basic DART fare is $2.50, or $1.25 for reduced (disabled/senior) fare. This is good for two hours. A day pass is double those amounts.

TRE is $2.50 per zone (there are two, if you go beyond DFW airport, it's an additional zone) and half that for reduced fare. From 9:30am to 2:30pm, unlimited riding is available on the midday pass for $1.75.


Basic fares on the DCTA is a dollar more than TRE but reduced fares are 50 cents less.


There are numerous HOV (or carpool) lanes on the areas freeways. Be advised that they are not free and a bill will be mailed to you based on your vehicle's license plate. If it's a rental car, it will be added to your bill. A sign at the entrance to the lane tells you how much the current toll is.

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Darryl Musick
Copyright 2017 - All Rights Reserved

Monday, June 12, 2017

Reliving a Terrible Day in History - Dealey Plaza, Dallas, Texas


The flight to Love Field was flawless and on time. Hertz did a fine job getting us a car quickly, this one a Nissan Rogue, which would fit Tim's new folding power travel chair very easily in the rear hatch. The on board GPS (free for AAA members) routed us straight to our hotel, Homewood Suites in Arlington, just west of Dallas.  We just had to deal with some rush hour traffic, a lot of road construction, and potholes before we arrived.


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Checking in, we find that the hotel did not hold the accessible room we guaranteed. In fact, their records show we didn't book an accessible, 2 queen, suite but my printout of my confirmation puts lie to that.

We sleep in the non-accessible room, which has a bathroom that will just not do. In the morning, a conversation with the manager finds us moving to an accessible suite that became available.  
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I really don't like moving after already being in another room and I don't like it when the hotel doesn't live up to it's end of the bargain either (Hilton gave us another 10,000 points in our loyalty account for compensation when I complained).

Enough of our hotel follies...

Tim usually has a place he wants to see when we're in a town.  It might be the Reichstag in Berlin or the Olympic Stadium in Munich or Alcatraz in San Francisco...you get the idea. Yes, we are ostensibly here for baseball (the Rangers are hosting our Halos - we'll get to that in another post) but Tim also want so see Dealey Plaza.

Tim also likes to try the rapid transit systems of each city he visits so we drive 15 miles to the nearest DART light rail station (as opposed to the 16 miles it would be from our hotel in Arlington to Dealey Plaza).

Once we find the station, it's an easy ride into Union Station, about 2 blocks away from our destination. Union Station is pretty but also pretty quiet and dead. A fairly easy 5 minute walk takes us up to the plaza.



We have to navigate through hordes of school field trip kids along the sidewalk as we make our way to the infamous 'grassy knoll.' I'm skeptical but I hope these kids grasp the immense significance of the spot they're standing at. No one has ever made an attempt on a president's life in their entire existence and hopefully never will. I imagine this must be an abstract, long ago, historical fact for them.



Of course, on November 22, 1963, president John F. Kennedy arrived at Love Field in Dallas to attend a luncheon in his honor. The motorcade was planned for maximum exposure so the crowds could get a look at their president. The president opted not to have the protective 'bubble' on top of his limousine.



Around lunchtime, the procession turned left into Dealey Plaza. Shots rang out and the popular president was dead.



Two X's mark the spot on the road where the bullets hit him...the first, a wounding shot through the neck. 



The second, the deadly kill shot in front of the concrete pergola wall where dress maker Abraham Zapruder stood, capturing the whole thing on his home movie camera.

Behind the pergola sits a parking lot with an inconspicuous wooden fence separating the two. Many have theorized that a second gunman set up behind it to shoot the president. A quick walk over and I can see the conspiracy theory graffiti on it advertising websites to learn more about their views of the assassination.

Of course, the main (lone?) gunman was set up 6 stories over the corner in the Texas Schoolbook Depository. That building is now a museum, focused on the events of that day.



We get tickets and wait half an hour for our turn to take the elevator up to the 6th floor where a walking audio tour takes you through the election of Kennedy, his presidency, his visit to Texas, the assassination, and it's aftermath. A glassed-in corner shows where Lee Harvey Oswald set up his sniper's next to shoot the president.

It's all a sobering reminder that with great power comes great personal risk.

Darryl Musick
Copyright 2017 - All Rights Reserved

Photos by Letty Musick
Copyright 2017 - All Rights Reserved

Sunday, June 11, 2017

THE COCKTAIL HOUR: Mid Priced Reposado Tequila Taste Off


In this corner, from the distillery of Tequila Sauza is Hornitos Reposado. Going stateside for around $25 for a 750 mil. bottle, it's one of the biggest selling, mid priced premium tequilas.
 

The contender is from the Cuervo empire, Gran Centenario. Also going for around $25 a bottle, it comes in a classic, ribbed bottle.



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Both are nice, smooth reposados aged in new oak barrels. Both are better than other popular reposados such as Familia Camarena and Cazadores but not as good as, say, Asombroso or Clase Azul.


Only one can be a winner, though. Watch the short video above as Tim joins me again on another taste off where we pick our winner of the mid-priced reposados.

Cheers!
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-Darryl

Friday, June 9, 2017

The Evolving Destination...How a Trip Decision Comes Together at The World On Wheels


Picking where to go on a trip isn't merely "hey, let's go there!" for us. Well, sometimes it is and everything comes together rather quickly. Other times, it's an evolution.

Take our latest travels...how does a Caribbean island vacation morph into a triple destination trip through the Lone Star state then over to the Florida Keys?

After last fall's European Grand Tour, we were talking over the difficulty of multiple air legs to reach destinations deep into Europe that didn't offer non-stop service to Los Angeles. Tim had some anxiety before leaving but did fine. The last leg, of three, on the way home didn't sit too well but he managed fine.



"I don't want to go anywhere where we have to take more than two flights," he told me, "but I wouldn't mind going to St. Croix even though that takes two flights."

That started the wheels spinning. We love St. Croix and, especially, the beautiful Buccaneer Hotel there. The only thing is it's a bit hard to get Tim onto the sandy beach (but not impossible), pool, and especially the ocean.

That got me searching for alternative spot where we could go somewhere in the Caribbean, tropical, and where we could get Tim to some crystal-clear ocean water. The Bahamas, Barbados, Curacao, and more came up where...maybe...I could get Tim to the water's edge and wade in. 



Harder yet was to find a boat that he could go on then go into the water from. We learned the hard way that advertising your dive boat as 'handicapped accessible' doesn't mean that it is in anyway, shape, or form accessible in St. Croix (one operator there plasters their web site with it but when asked said "yeah, you just need to be able to climb this ladder-like set of stairs onto the boat and off into the water").


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My search did keep turning up one operator in the Florida Keys, Tranquil Adventures, who had installed a pool lift onto the side of a pontoon boat specifically to lower disabled people into the water to go snorkeling.

I'd put that in my memory banks for later use, if I needed it. In the meantime, I came across an ad for Southwest Airlines announcing that they'd just started nonstop service from our favorite local (but underused) airport, Ontario, to Dallas' Love Field.

Another long term goal of ours is to see every Major League Baseball stadium. We're up to 25 and the two stadiums in Texas are among the last five we need to visit. My brain clicks in to tell me that if I could get a cheap, nonstop, Southwest flight to Dallas, maybe we could get another cheap flight from there after a layover to the Caribbean allowing us to not only have an easy transit to the islands but get another stadium in along the way.



Perusing the flight schedules, there's not much from Dallas to the Caribbean but from Houston we could get a short and simple flight on Southwest to Fort Lauderdale...only 90 minutes from Captain Mick's Tranquil Adventures in Key Largo.  It's also a very easy and cheap add on to fly one hour from Dallas to Houston and...hey!...they have another stadium there with a very affordable Homewood Suites only a block from it.

We can do this!  Two Texas stadiums (plus a day or two at each city to experience what they have to offer) then an extended stay in the Keys...which would satisfy our itch for a warm beach at least adjacent to the Caribbean...where we can go snorkeling on a lift-equipped boat.

So, Tim's original comment about taking the two flights to St. Croix evolves through several permutations to become a trip to Texas' two biggest cities ending up on a Florida island for some warm, beach adventures.

Stay tuned for that...

Darryl Musick
Copyright 2017 - All Rights Reserved